When you make a sympathy card, it’s important to get the imagery and the message just right. In my opinion, the artwork shouldn’t be too somber nor too colorful, and the messaging should be uplifting but not preachy. I think that this DIY sympathy card manages that balance beautifully.
Unfortunately, life inevitably presents us with occasions to send sympathy cards. While it’s tough to know what to say to someone who is grieving, just acknowledging their situation can be comforting. For today’s tutorial, I put together a serene DIY sympathy card concept that I hope will help you to help someone else. It features a soothing illustration and a simple message that hits the right tone.
This project requires a simple compilation of supplies:
First, grab a piece of 5″ x 7″ (12.7 cm x 17.8 cm) handmade paper or cut a piece of watercolor paper to 5″ x 7″. Then, use your pencil to draw a simple eucalyptus branch like the one shown below. The branch should measure about 4″ (10.15 cm) long, and its tip should be about 7/8″ (2.25 cm) from the top of the page.
2. Add Ink
Now, draw a small, faint “X” on half of the leaves. That “X” marks them as leaves to draw over with ink (and you’ll leave the non-X leaves alone for now). Then, use your straight pen, Nikko G nib, and waterproof black ink to start tracing over the “X” leaves. Be sure to draw tiny, detailed veins that meet in the middle of the leaves, as shown below:
Continue to ink over the “X” leaves until the piece looks something like this:
3. Make a Lettering Draft
The messaging for this card is a short line (“Wishing You / Comfort & Peace”). Definitely make a pencil draft before launching in to writing calligraphy! The draft will ensure that your lettering comes out looking elegant and appropriately serious. To make my draft, I first wrote “Comfort & Peace” in Janet Style calligraphy. Then, I centered “WISHING YOU” in small Sans Serif lettering above the calligraphy.
Once you’re satisfied with your draft, go over it with that same black waterproof ink. Switch up your nib and pen combination if necessary! I prefer to use an oblique pen for slanted calligraphy, so I used a Brause EF66 nib in an oblique pen to write “Comfort & Peace”.
4. Add Watercolor
Now, get out your favorite watercolor palette and moisten a deep green color and an earthy brown. (I chose to use Viridian Hue and Raw Umber from the Winsor & Newton Cotman set.) Once the paint has absorbed some of the water, dip a size 1 (-ish) paintbrush in clean water. Then, dip the paintbrush in the green tone and use the green to outline one of the as yet untouched leaves in your pencil draft.
While the paint is still wet, clean off your brush and load it up with just water. Then, use the water to tease the green value into the rest of the leaf.
The paint on the page should still be wet at this point. Load up your brush with the brown value and touch the brush to the leaf at 2-3 different spots. The brown paint will blossom out, given that the green base layer is still wet. Then, quickly swish off your brush in water and reload it with green. Touch the green to a couple of spots in the leaf as well. Doing this will give the leaf more contrast.
Repeat the same process for all the remaining leaves in the pencil draft. If any of the leaves are “hidden” behind an inked leaf, be sure to draw the entire watercolor leaf as if we can see through those inked leaves.
5. Erase the Draft
Once your watercolor has completely dried, use a high-quality eraser to gently erase any remaining pencil lines. Then, write your message inside the card — or on the back, if you made your card on a single sheet of stock like I did. Writing a message can be intimidating, but as long as you convey that the bereaved is in your thoughts, you’ve done the best you can! (My secret tool for writing polished messages lately has been Chat GPT. Try it next time you’re at a loss for words.)
I remember when my maternal grandmother died a few years ago, my mother was incredibly touched by the cards she received. It was a reminder that she wasn’t alone in her grief, which helped ease the pain a little bit. I hope that this DIY sympathy card tutorial helps you to give someone comfort, too. Thanks so much for reading, and here’s hoping that you don’t have a need for this tutorial for a long, long time!